‘Heartbreaking’ cases of child poverty in Borders

Bronwyn Coggan. Chairman of Borders Children's Charity.
Bronwyn Coggan. Chairman of Borders Children's Charity.

A BORDERS charity is trying to raise awareness of the help it can provide to improve the lives of local kids living in poverty, specifically targeting professionals who work with children and families.

Last week, TheSouthern reported on child poverty figures for the region, which revealed that in some areas of the Borders a quarter of all children are living below the breadline.

The Borders Children’s Charity helps to provide various items including clothing, beds, bedding and money for school trips for kids in need across the area.

However, it is only able to help those who are referred to the charity by professionals, such as social workers, doctors and teachers.

Bronwyn Coggan, chairperson of the charity, said: “There are a lot of children we need to get the money to, but our biggest struggle just now is to get the council and Government departments in the Borders to realise that we are here and get them to use us.

“There are children in the Borders sharing beds with their grandparents or sleeping on burst mattresses on the floor.

“These children are living in Third World conditions where they are doing without. Some cases are just heartbreaking.”

She added: “All cases brought to us come through the network of social workers and health visitors who are out there dealing with cases of child poverty in our local area right now.

“It is a complex network and communication through the network is therefore complex too, and sometimes much slower than we would wish for.

“For a small group of volunteers like the Borders Children’s Charity, it is quite a challenge to make sure that the people who are dealing with poverty-stricken families on a daily basis know that, in addition to the resources provided by the state, they can come to us for additional help too.

“The really warming thing is that although sometimes the system can be more complex and slow than we would like, the people we deal with, from social workers to doctors to teachers and councillors, all agree that such children need help.

“And, with the help of the Borders community as a whole, we can make things better.

“Our appeal is to those individuals who can help spread the word about us, and they can do that simply just by sharing our website address – www.borderschildrenscharity.org.uk”

The charity has continued to see a rise in the number of referrals each year, and also an increase in the things the children need, such as beds, shoes and money for school trips.

Bronwyn said: “A lot of children that are in a desperate situation have never had a holiday, and it is so important that they get to go on school trips.

“Trips are about relationship building, and it also gives the children a break from their chaotic lives at home.”

Bronwyn welcomed the debate, locally and nationally, that the publication of the End Child Poverty campaign’s statistics brought about last week.
“Poverty has been a difficult issue for politicians and governments to deal with for a long time, and it’s good that the debate to do more is high on the political agenda,” she said.

“The powers that be who are concentrating on finding a long-term solution give us hope for the future, but for now we feel we have to keep our focus strictly on the here and now.

“Our charity has been going nearly 50 years, and that in itself demonstrates how difficult an issue it is to find a solution to.”

Bronwyn concluded: “With the current economic environment predicted to prevail for some time, the Borders Children’s Charity remains committed to raising funds and spending them for as long as children within the Scottish Borders need us to.”